The color grey is used repeatedly to represent death. The most common instance of this symbol is in Joyce’s descriptions of Gabriel’s Aunt Julia. Julia has grey hair and a grey face, and has “not aged well.” It seems this is not only true physically, but mentally as well. She often seems confused and wears an expression that gives her the appearance of “a woman who did not know where she was or where she was going.” The use of grey as a symbol for death is reinforced at the end of the text when Gabriel imagines returning to the same house for Aunt Julia’s funeral. Soon after. Gabriel feels his own identity “fading into a grey impalpable world,” meaning the world of the dead.
Grey Quotes in The Dead
The tears gathered more thickly in his eyes and in the partial darkness he imagined he saw the form of a young man standing under a dripping tree. Other forms were near. His soul had approached that region where dwell the vast hosts of the dead…His own identity was fading out into a grey impalpable world: the solid world itself which these dead had one time reared and lived in was dissolving and dwindling.